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Rugby | SA Rugby

Muir appointment positive for Sharks

The appointment of Dick Muir to the Cell C Sharks coaching team should add crucial impetus to the steady improvement that the Durban side has shown since Robert du Preez started laying the foundation blocks for his three-year plan at the start of the year.

Although they fell at the final hurdle, the Sharks this past domestic season made the Currie Cup playoffs for the first time since 2014 and were the best team in the competition by some distance until Western Province beat them in the decider. Former Springbok scrumhalf Du Preez brought the hard edge they may have been missing before, and they suffocated many teams with their strong forward based approach en route to their top placed finish on the log.

However, the two defeats to WP in the closing three weeks of the competition – they lost the final league game and then the final to their Cape rivals – did expose weaknesses in the Sharks armoury. It should have been a damning indictment of their lack of progress as an attacking unit that Province coach John Dobson was able to say afterwards that his team knew once they took the lead that they just needed to kick the ball into the Sharks half to be safe.

That was another way of saying that he knew that the Sharks didn’t have the attacking firepower to hurt his team, and so it proved.

Du Preez might also have caused some consternation among many Sharks fans when he said on the eve of that final that he didn’t believe in following the Kiwi type attacking game and effectively said he was happy with following a conservative, forward based style.

It was easy to understand what Du Preez was trying to say when he said that he only knew one way of coaching rugby and that was winning rugby, but it nonetheless might not have been the perfect message to put out at a time when there is a big drive countrywide for teams to embrace a more attacking and ball-in-hand orientated playing style.

When it comes to rugby philosophy, Muir’s is the direct opposite of the one that Du Preez was espousing, and he has had a good record in the past when it comes to getting teams to become more effective on attack. His appointment as a consultant in charge of attack and backline play then is the right one for the Sharks as it will bring balance to the coaching team and there could be some vigorous debate in the meeting rooms next year. That is of course a good thing if the Sharks are to progress.

The former Springbok, Sharks and WP centre also has plenty of top level coaching experience after being involved with the national team as an assistant coach for four years.

His short stint at the Lions was ill-fated, perhaps because he didn’t have the right support structures in place when he took over, but before that he was coach of a Sharks team that came within a few minutes of becoming the first South African team to win the Super Rugby title. They only lost out to a last gasp try to the Bulls’ Bryan Habana in the Durban final in 2007.

Muir hasn’t been involved in any top coaching job since he left the Boks at the end of 2011, but he has been working at the Investec Coaching Academy and did an excellent job as director of rugby at Northwood College in Durban North this past year.

“I am very excited to once again be involved with the Sharks as a consultant, and I look forward to helping them achieve their vision,” said Muir when what everyone already knew was confirmed to the media on Friday.

“Together with Gary (Teichmann, CEO) and Robert and the rest of the management team, our plan is to bring the Sharks back to where they once were. Rugby coaching is a passion for me and despite taking a break from fulltime coaching, I never have not been involved at some level of the structures. My role at the Investec Academy and at Northwood School has kept me in touch with what is happening in the game and has fuelled my passion to be part of shaping the future of the Sharks.”

Apart from his experience and the infectious enthusiasm that breeds an air of positivity around him, Muir also brings to the job a keen eye for talent.

Several of the star players who excelled for the Springboks in the latter part of last decade and the early part of this one, such as JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn and England centre Brad Barrett were first blooded at provincial level by Muir while still in their teens.

It was during the 2006 season, with Muir in charge for his first full campaign after being a crisis replacement for Kevin Putt the year before, that the Sharks started to build towards the strong force they were to become from 2007 through to the early part of 2014.

As someone who drove the rebuilding of that period, Muir is the perfect man for the Sharks to have on board at this embryonic stage of what is being touted as a new era for Sharks rugby.


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